One of the most prestigious groupings of American embroideries to have been worked in New England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries can be attributed to the Balch Academy in Providence, R.I. The Academy was conducted under the accomplished hand of Mary "Polly" Balch. Many of the Balch Academy samplers and silk work embroideries possess some of the most sophisticated and pleasing visual design characteristics, as well as intricate needlework techniques.
The superlative designs created at the school were influenced by Mary Balch's childhood sampler executed in Newport in 1773. She was the daughter of Sarah Rogers and Timothy Balch; Born in 1762 in Newport, R.I., she moved with her family to Providence in 1776. To give support to her family, Mary aided her mother in teaching embroidery. By 1785, she had taken over the responsibilities of the school located near Brown University. The Balch Academy was in operation from 1785 to 1841. Mary passed away in 1831. Her adopted daughter, Eliza Walker, maintained the school for ten more years.
Our reproduction will be worked on 35-count linen using silk and metallic threads. The embroidery techniques used are cross-stitch, tent, rice, outline, satin and Algerian eye, with accents of French knots, couching and queen stitch. Directions will be given for the procedures needed to transfer elements of the design. We will also view the development of the Newport to Providence-area samplers through the use of slides.